One of the things the club has done to push this positive message is to show footage from the training ground showing three recently injured players returned to full fitness.
George and Harlee are back in training! 💪 pic.twitter.com/kPdsMrooAO
— Birmingham City FC (@BCFC) February 7, 2023
While Troy Deeney has only been out for a couple of weeks, the long layoffs for Harlee Dean and George Hall have inspired all kinds of rumours on social media, particularly as their injuries coincided with the winter transfer window.
I have to admit even I found myself caught up in some of it.
The weekly updates on Dean and Hall seemed to follow a pattern which made me feel as if the length of time those players were out was being changed by the update.
It’s a phenomenon known as the “Mandela Effect” whereby people have a false memory of something happening when it actually hadn’t.
In an effort to prove this one way or another, I spent a few days putting together a spreadsheet to act as an injury tracker.
You can take a look at it at this link, and I will also link it via the “Useful information” page in the menu as I’m going to attempt to try to keep it updated.
First team injuries
When creating the injury tracker spreadsheet, I made a conscious decision to only take information published by the club either in the official press conference text or Youtube video.
I wanted to try to stay away from any allegations of bias that might be perceived in the written press, so I could remain completely impartial.
There are a few conclusions that I think can be drawn from this exercise.
The biggest thing I think we have to accept is that it’s not an exact science as to how quickly a player will return from injury.
While some players have come back quicker than expected, others have taken longer for a variety of reasons.
George Hall for example, suffered not one but two injuries since the Blackpool game in December. He was apparently back in training when the press conference was held for the original date of the Forest Rovers FA Cup game.
However, in the week that followed he tweaked his hamstring and as such it’s been another few weeks before we have seen him rejoin training.
Scott Hogan is another case in point. Although he was “touch and go” and “very close” for games around Christmas, it wasn’t until January 17th he was back in the squad. This is because while he was recovering from injury he suffered from a virus which affected his recovery and it took him a bit longer to recover.
Although some might debate it, I think Harlee Dean has been a huge miss in defence and it does feel like he’s been close for a while. He’s the hardest absence to explain too, as he was apparently close for the Sunderland game before the World Cup break but is only now back in training in early February.
Without proper knowledge it’s difficult to prove, but I think Dean has suffered from a number of injuries over the last twelve months and it is this which is affecting him now.
While on loan at Sheffield Wednesday he missed about six weeks with a calf injury and he suffered with another calf injury during pre-season which kept him out until October.
Three consecutive calf injuries in 12 months suggests to me that there might be something deeper which is causing Dean issues, and at 31 it might be that his football career is starting to wind down.
One of the other things I’ve noted with the updates given by the club is the lack of information published on the website about injuries to younger players in the first team squad.
While my understanding that Nico Gordon’s illness that kept him out for a long period is a private matter and thus should be excluded, I’m surprised the club website doesn’t carry the updates Brian Dick has posted about players like Jobe Bellingham, Tate Campbell or Josh Williams.
As it turns out, that might be a bigger issue than one might think.
Younger player injuries
It’s harder to source details on injuries for players in the Development Squad because the club just doesn’t talk about them.
I’ve been left to talk to people who have connections to players in the Development Squad to try and get a better understanding of why some players who I’d expect to be playing just haven’t been.
Take Lewis Cunningham as an example.
Originally a trialist, the left sided defender signed a contract on October 12 until the end of the season with a year’s option.
However, Cunningham has not played a game for the under-21s since the 2-0 win over Crewe Alexandra at the end of October.
With Blues having an absolute dearth of left backs at under-21 level, one would expect he’d have picked up games between then and now; however it appears injury put paid to that.
Unfortunately, Cunningham is one of three Blues development players along with Luke Carsley and Kieran Wakefield to suffer from long term back injuries.
As younger players it’s possible that they are susceptible to specific back injuries as they are growing but it does concern me to have three players who have struggled with this.
Finley Thorndike was another player that I had hoped to see make moves in the Development Squad, maybe even pushing for the first team. He too was a long-term injury victim.
In fact, the Blues development squad have struggled a bit this season with young forwards being injured with Josh Andrews, Adan George, and Rico Patterson all having been in the treatment room at some point along with the aforementioned Thorndike and Wakefield.
My heart especially goes out to Harley Hamilton, who was given a third year scholarship rather than a pro deal in the summer having dealt with injuries during his first two years. He’s continued to struggle with injuries this season, making only two starts for the development squad.
The good news is the injury list is decreasing now and hopefully the club can see some of their older youngsters push on in the final part of the season as they look to extend their professional career with the club.
It’s very hard for me to point fingers of blame at anyone for the number and length of injuries Blues have suffered this year, as the truth is I do not have anything like enough information to have an informed opinion.
However, with the possibility of a takeover and news of appointments in the recruitment department, I would like to offer some thoughts on the kind of things that would reassure me.
It’s clear that the whole club needs a bit of TLC and more importantly investment right now – from the stadium to the squad, Blues are patched up and coping with issues that are years old rather than fixing them completely.
If there is to be investment in the club this summer, my hope is that the investment goes into all areas, including the medical side.
This doesn’t just mean fancy treatment suites or huge amounts of money on top surgeons either.
I’d be happy to know that the club are analysing the data they have on injuries to see what they can do better to prevent them from happening. I’d love to hear that the club have invested in upgrades to training or even gym facilities to improve players’ conditioning and match fitness.
The problem of course is that it’s hard to see a tangible return on investment on this kind of thing, which makes it unattractive in comparison to spending a little bit extra on wages to try to bring in a new striker for example.
While I get many Blues fans are here for a good time, not a long time, I’m a believer that these kinds of fixes are important to ensure not only do Blues pull themselves out of the shit situation they’re in, but stay out of it.